February 4th, 2017

Khetri Musings

It was in the summer of 1992; I was at Khetri Nagar for an internship at Khetri Copper Complex (KCC), Rajasthan. These are old underground and open cast mines in the Aravalli mountain range, one of the old mountains of India.

Khetri Nagar is a town in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan in India. It is part of the Shekhawati region. Khetri is two towns, "Khetri Town" founded by Raja Khet Singhji Nirwan and "Khetri Nagar" which is about 10 km away from Khetri. Khetri Nagar, well known for its Copper Project, was built by and is under the control of Hindustan Copper Limited, a public sector undertaking under the Government of India. Khetri Nagar is also very well known by the name of 'Copper.'

I came to this training with my classmates Dr. Sundar K. who loves philosophy and Dr. Nihar Sahoo who was jovial. For the first time, I got a chance to live in the Rajasthan during the peak of summer. It was very hot and the temperatures were often reaching greater than forty-five degrees centigrade. It was very exhausting; the heat is intense that the sweat dried into salt immediately. The clothes never became wet due to sweating.  Coming from Hyderabad, I used to wonder, because when we sweat our clothes become wet. I used to feel very thirsty and drink lots of water. In the evenings we used to go out and drink lots of sugarcane juice with ice in it. There was a Kerala hotel where we used to go for morning breakfast. It was famous for Dosas and Idlis. The sambar was excellent.

For accommodation, we were given a dormitory in the Khetri Mining colony. It was a large hall, with few beds. We were sharing with few students from Kothagudem Mining school, Andhra Pradesh and one intern from Banaras Hindu University, Uttar Pradesh.

The water stored in the steel drums at the bathroom was too hot. Even when we took a bath within a minute, we used to be dry and never felt we took a shower.

All the windows were welded with sheets of iron. We could not understand how could they close all the windows when we need proper ventilation. Within few days of our arrival into the dormitory the interns from Kothagudem by hand broke opened all the windows. The management of the dormitory having known the damage caused summoned all of us. The reason was before we arrived during the winter it was so cold so they have closed all the windows. One of the interns said we should have windows which could be closed in the winter and opened in the summer rather having the windows permanently closed. Everyone laughed at this simple reply, and they did not give any punishment for this act of breaking the windows.

As part of field work of mapping, myself and my two classmates used to climb the hogback or sharp crests of the peaks of Aravalli mountain range. And also we used to go down deep into the mines, these mines were inclined. In the mines, it was sultry with lots of moisture. This was my first experience of getting into the mines. I can never forget the earth smell of an underground mine. We learned a lot about, sampling, mining methods, mapping the ores, etc.

Apart from the regular field visits and visits to the underground mines, I made it a point that during the evenings I would climb some of the hills around the place we lived. As it was summer the sunlight used to last till 7:30 p.m. One day I saw a hill nearby which was close to the village Singhana. It appeared round and very attractive. It was of quartzite rocks, due to diurnal variation of temperature and other natural forces such as the wind, rain, etc., broke into pieces. The rocks were not firm, and they were crumbling, especially more than half way up the hill.

One day, I went walking there and managed to climb the steep hill, although the rocks were crumbling under my weight. I have reached the peak, could see the beautiful sunset, along with a local passenger train in the distance and desert sands. I was feeling thirsty, and now I need to climb down before it is dark. As I was getting down - due to loose quartzite rocks - with my body weight acting downwards - I was just sliding downwards. It was becoming darker and harder for me to climb down smoothly. Now, I cannot spend much time to find a safer path to climb down. I have finally decided to slide down over the loose rocks. After some time I was at the foot of the hill, with few bruises. I could see the lights of the Singhana village. It was around 8:30 pm when I reached the dormitory. Climbing hills always inspired me although it was dangerous sometimes.